For Different Results, Choose Differently
One of the strangest things about being human is we sometimes believe we can take all our same thoughts, beliefs, behaviors (read: BS) into new situations and suddenly experience something different. We believe that location has more control over our life than our own psyche. I had gone almost three years before accepting that I was finally available for a relationship; that I was honestly ready to join with someone; that I had the capacity to stay true myself and simultaneously grow with someone. It took me a minute to realize that we don’t necessarily change who we are when we grow, we just expand into a greater version of ourselves. Meaning, we don’t become different people, we just peel off the limiting qualities of us, so we can continue to grow. But you need a pretty damn solid foundation in order to do this. Time and location isn’t what made me suddenly available, it was my willingness to take whatever I recoiled from in the past and move through it.
Pain and discomfort at the emotional and spiritual level are not signs of what to avoid, but of what I have given too much power. So, naturally, when I was ready to have a new experience with romance, I was going to have to face my arch-nemesis: rejection, or better yet, fear of rejection. Why? Because I cannot have an experience beyond my wildest dreams sitting inside of my comfort zone. Not possible. Beyond literally means outside of what I am knowing and currently understanding, which requires faith and faith, unlike hope, requires action. Faith, not in the religious sense, but in the logical sense; knowing that I won’t die from rejection, knowing that life has always worked out for me and it always works out faster the less I worry. And knowing that in the situations that I do not have the answers to, that if I remain open-minded then I might finally have the new experience I was wanting all along. Or that it’s okay to walk through discomfort and be confused, that just means that you are about to learn something.
On the show, it was revealed to me that I was missing out on the opportunities I didn’t take. Suddenly, I knew I had to ask for the dates. I had to be the aggressor and take initiative. I had to be the first to say that I was falling in love, and I had to be the first to hold onto someone and relax into the present moment even when I wanted to leap out of my skin and run and hide. It’s not just exposure therapy, it’s arson. I was certain that I was not just going to be able to tolerate the discomfort, I had to annihilate all those little wounds in me that created barriers to intimacy—but I had to face them in real-time first. I was going to burn away all the bushes and brush that hid my fears (e.g., I am not sexy enough, cool enough, sane enough to keep this going for long), expose those little buggers and finally be free to be one with someone.
And, I had to choose differently over and over. I couldn’t just choose differently once and hope it would undo the years of doing something one way. I had to be the one willing to be rejected over and over, in public, in front of peers, on TV. I had to decide that I was now ready to be that person that could withstand rejection and have enough faith to try again.
The show made this almost insurmountable because you only have one object of affection. For me, the most difficult time was being at the beach with Robert and ten other guys each vying for his attention. I approached him first with another cast mate and we talked for a bit, but he was pulled away. I eventually saw him talking long enough with Robby that I was willing to go up to them, interrupt and try to steal Robert away. There are literally dozens of fears happening all at once, namely 1) does he even want to talk to me, 2) if I successfully get him alone, how do I know that I will actually be able to speak and get any coherent questions out, 3) fear of having to get to know him before someone else sweeps in, 4) fear of him not actually allowing me to take him away. It’s common knowledge that we are all in an awkward position so if someone has the courage to do the snatch, then Robert should oblige, at least that’s what I was counting on.
So, I left the safety of the pack and walked toward Robert and Robby, I tapped Robert and asked if we could talk. Robby told me “no” and Robert didn’t even look back, but tossed the football back at me and said to go “have fun.” I caught the football and immediately walked away, while my insides were trying to slump out of my body and into ocean, swim to Santa Monica and take a bus back to my home in Hollywood. I had a fight or flight response, and I flapped around wanting to leave. I thought, “the one person, the singular reason I am here and have put my life on hold, has rejected me in front of everyone and I don’t know what else to do.” I tried to use ration, but my reptilian brain had taken over. Thankfully I immediately tell Justin what happened and he sat with me until I could access my mental faculties again and get my heart rate down.
What the hell just happened? Really, I thought, what just happened? I was knocked off my center so fast. And as quickly as I wanted to beat myself up about the experience, I remembered that I just walked up to my biggest fear and let it descend onto me, and I survived. I walked through rejection and would do something I never, ever would have thought to do or have the courage to do, I would give myself a minute to lick the wound and then try again. That blew my mind. As soon as a part of me decided that I could try again, that I could give Robert the benefit of the doubt, I knew I was peeling off a layer that was no longer useful, I was taking off armor I no longer needed, and was becoming more and more available to be the man I always wanted to be. I was going to choose differently by doing differently and I was finally going to get what I deserved.
Choosing differently isn’t about changing personalities, places or things. Choosing differently, to have a new experience, is not about the three-dimensional conditions and relationships in your life—yes, these can change, too, but they won’t be sustainable if it’s the priority. Choosing differently is about choosing a different reaction, allowing ourselves to ride a different emotion. Normally, when I feel rejection I choose pride and wrath and runaway. I had to choose a different emotional response in the situation with Robert, because I was still invested in getting to know him (new behavior #1), so I allowed myself to feel sad about the rejection (new behavior #2), and I allowed myself to stay in the discomfort and still try again (new behavior #3) because I gave him the benefit of the doubt—generosity of spirit. In me redirecting my emotional life, as awkward and painful as it can be in the moment, I was able to have a new experience with Robert and allow myself to try to connect with him again. In doing this, I get to write a new direction into my life, one that isn’t a sad pattern of lost opportunities, but of fully realized experiences with no regrets.